Category Archives: Posts

Posts regarding the grand adventure of observing and forever being observed by The Lion Dog.

Surprise! I’m Competent!

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It has been too long since I have posted. I promised myself when starting The Lion Dog, that I would not abandon it, like I have done with many other projects (I blame this on the fact that I’m a libra). Of course, I have excuses, but I won’t bore you with those. Instead, I would like to make up for a little lost time by traveling back to June when I made the decision to live with my father for a few weeks while he recovered from a hospital stay.

Okay… part of that was part of my excuse, but bear with me.

If you have read this blog before, you know that I have referenced my father more than once. I hold him responsible for my love of dogs, my respect for all animal life, and for my interest in doggie brains. He is what many refer to as an “outdoorsman,” which means he owns many guns, much camouflage, varieties of cold weather gear, countless fishing rods, and, for most of my life, one precious “gun dog” at a time.  But this gun dog was always more than a gun dog, it was always part of the family, and, what’s more, an avenue for father / daughter teachings. “See that,” he would say when his dog would lie at the entrance to the kitchen, “she knows to lie there because I only give her food when she’s over there.”

So imagine my concern when my still rather new, rather crazy dog was about to come live with me in my super-gun-dog-trainer father’s home for an undecided amount of time. What if she did something nuts, like eating a wall or digging a hole in the carpet? (Not that she’s done either of these things before, but I have underestimated Nala before.) And, worse, my father was moving rather slowly, sometimes with a cane or walker; what if Nala ran into him? Knocked him over? What if my high-energy dog put my low energy father back in the hospital? It wouldn’t be the Nala’s fault, it would be my fault, the idiot who couldn’t train her dog, and my father would understand that.

Instead:

My father working his last dog, Willy, a German Wire Haired Pointer. He lost Willy two years ago.

Nala once more surprised me, but this time in a good way. She practically tiptoed (tippawed?) around my father when he walked down his narrow hallway with his walker, and later his cane. She put her head on his chair when he was watching Mash reruns and waited for his hand to inevitably rest on her quirky ears. She watched him from her bed in the morning as he made coffee and ate cereal, sensing that begging was not allowed. By the end of the week, when she decided to chew on his chair a little, he just looked at the damage and shrugged. “Well,” he said, “now it matches the rest of the furniture.” I looked at the couch and love seat, both had the corners chewed, memories of gun dogs past. I wasn’t sure which past dog committed the crimes, but what I did know is that it was official for Nala, she was accepted by my father. It was a personal accomplishment.

Deer Run

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There are an estimated 200,000 whitetail deer in Iowa.

What does this mean (besides that fact that Iowa has a population issue)?

It means we Iowans get to view these magestic creatures on almost a daily basis. And when they are not crashing into the front of our cars, whitetails can be quite breathtaking.

It also means that on long walks through the wooded areas in our neighborhood, Nala often sees one or more deer and is compelled to run… and run… and run… and disappear for long periods of time.

The average whitetail can run up to 30 miles an hour. Nala can keep up with this rather well and considers them, I have decided, one of the following:

1. A serious challenge

2. Worthy running partners

3. A possible dinner option

I understand that this issue is my fault and that I need to do something about it for Nala’s safety and my sanity. But the chase that took place this morning, instead of showing evidence of her free spirit and sometimes defiance demonstrated her loyalty and intelligence.

My boyfriend, his dog Ozzie (a Swissy) Nala and I were on a walk in said woods when a deer was spotted up the trail. Nala, of course, saw it first and before I could grab her, the deer moved and the chase was on. We kept walking. Usually in these kinds of situations, Nala seems to follow our smell and periodic calls and suddenly appears, soundless, from the trees, often ahead of us on the trail. But not this time.

For 20 minutes after the walk was over my boyfriend and I (loyal Ozzie by our side) called NALA! into the woods. Nothing. Just about the time we were feeling desperate, a couple met us on the trail. “You looking for a dog?” they asked.

“Yes,” we politely replied, thinking something like, What was your first clue? “If you see a skinny brown dog, that’s the one.”

“Oh!” the man lit up a bit. “Well there was a brown dog down by the entrance, sitting by a green SUV,” (my boyfriend’s car.) You must be kidding.

So down to the SUV we went. Sure enough, there sat Nala, panting and watching people on bikes and in running shorts going in and out of the entrance to the park and trails.

Of course my relief overwhelmed my annoyance at her defiance. And, naturally, I was impressed. You see, the last time Nala pulled this I-must-chase-deer stunt, I called for her for about 30 minutes then left. I was angry and I thought maybe if I wasn’t waiting for her when she returned she might learn a lesson. That lesson, in my mind at the time, was “If I run away from my human when she calls, she might not be here when I get back and I might just lose my happy home.” I had a fantasy that this would lead to her no longer running away. I wasn’t afraid she wouldn’t come back, she always comes back. I mean, the dog once found me in a Walgreen’s Drug Store. But I have the fear that she might get hurt out there and not be able to come back. Anyway, I was gone for about 10 minutes and when I returned she was sitting on the trail in the exact spot where she had disappeared. Upon seeing the car she ran happily to her human who was happy to see her safe and, as mentioned earlier, relief overwhelmed the previous frustration.

What Nala actually learned: “When I run off I must then return to the car so I am not left.”

Well, it can’t be said that she doesn’t learn. Clearly my dog is smarter than me.

Get What You Need (or Learning Something from the Stones)

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I love the Rolling Stones. They have wonderfully quotable music. One of my favorite quotes is “You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need.”

It’s one of those quotes that I push on friends and family when they are going through some type of undesirable situation. The only time I do not prefer this outlook is when I am the one in the undesirable situation. Go figure.

Ever since I got Nala I have been slightly unable to settle into my usual slightly-anal-retentive-over-productive-over-organized self. I often work from home and, therefore, have fallen into a very specific routine.

  1. Wake around 7
  2. Make coffee
  3. Check Facebook to ease into the whole work with computer thingy
  4. Drink coffee while checking all e-mail boxes (there are four)
  5. Start logging on to the school sites, opening papers and grading
  6. Grade until noon (two if there is a lot to do) / eat lunch while grading
  7. Go for a jog or to the gym
  8. Clean (laundry etc.)
  9. Shower
  10. Watch some TV or read
  11. Dinner often involves friends, boyfriend, or family
  12. Read
  13. Bed
  14. Repeat

Pretty simple. To those who have families and 9-5 jobs it probably seems a little ridiculous, but this kind of routine made me comfortable. And with Miko, my dog for 12 years, this was possible because by the time this became my routine she was old-ish and relaxed.

However, even those who have lives full of appointments and little league games, still have a route, they are just most likely more demanding. Routines are important. They make us feel comfortable. It’s why we get angry when our car breaks down (besides the fact that it costs money), it puts a kink on our routine, interferes with plans. Even the Chili minors trapped underground for two months carried on a routine to maintain their sanity. Leaders of the group assigned jobs, eating and drinking times, and even a place and time for chapel.

My routine has changed, and I have been uncomfortable for months.

I would give you an example of what my life is like now that I have Nala, but that is impossible because it changes pretty much every day. Is part of that my fault? Yes.  In the fall and spring semesters I took on some extra classes in my constant feeble attempt to make more money, be more professional, and seem like a hero enough to get good letters of recommendation when I finally get to move (one of these days….). And I haven’t really been able to hit the sweet spot of routine with these classes, my need for work time / reading time / writing time, and Nala’s needs.

There are times when this causes me serious stress and even despair.  I think about how much money I spend on this dog, how much time, and how much time I am NOT spending on my writing or at the gym or with my boyfriend. Then I feel guilty for getting her in the first place.

Then, last weekend, my boyfriend and I went camping with our dogs. (He has a Swiss Mountain Dog named Ozzie who is a big teddy bear.) When I got home I was showing my mother a video of Nala swimming in the lake and fetching a stick, over and over (she’s a great swimmer) and my mother’s response was, “Aw. She got such a good home.” And I thought, yes, she did. How dare I regret giving a dog a good home? So what if my routine has been off? Truth be told, I’m probably getting what I need. Who knows? Without Nala I may have become some kind of hermit and eventually developed a phobia and never left my apartment again.

So, with this in mind. I’ve come up with a new, very flexible, routine for the both of us.

  1. Wake at 7
  2. Walk one mile
  3. Run two miles
  4. Walk one mile
  5. Shower (For Nala this means nap)
  6. Write (For Nala this means nap)
  7. Work on on-line classes until no later than 2 (For Nala this means one of three things, nap, chew bone, or stare outside at birds)
  8. Do whatever we want until we both get tired.

This is Nala after the first run / walk on the first day of our anti-routine routine.

I started this just last week and so far the results are thus:

  1. Nala is super relaxed all day
  2. I am super relaxed all day
  3. I get a lot more done because Nala naps more
  4. I have lost one pound.
  5. We are both happier.

If I keep this up I won’t even need my gym membership.

Maybe this is what I needed all along.

Spray Sense No Bark Collar

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This image was taken from Amazon.com

Product: Spray Sense No Bark Collar

Claim: Curbs excessive barking by spraying citronella on the dog when activated by the vibrations of a bark. Dogs are supposed to hate this smell and eventually realize that bark equal spray.

Where to Buy: Petco. Amazon. Pet supply sites.

Price: I paid over $60 at Petsmart but I have found it on Amazon.com for half this price.

Did it Work?: No.

Details:

I purchased this to curb Nala barking while in her crate when I was away. However, Nala does not dislike water and that in addition to her anxiety made this collar nothing more than a nice air freshener. It is, however, a very humane option over a shock collar if it works, which is exactly why I bought it.

I ended up giving it to a fiend who had a dog that was bully barking (barking at owners or other dogs for attention). She said it was pretty funny to see the dog sprayed for the first time, but eventually the dog cared more about barking than not getting a douse of orange smelling spray in the face.

Is it a Keeper?: Not for this dog.

Five Benefits of Pet Ownership

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As posted on Life With Dog Website

There are hundreds, thousands, if not millions of reasons to love your pet. In honor of reaching one million Facebook “pet fans”, Petco conducted a survey on how pets make life one million times better. Listed in order of most popular sentiment, nearly 5,000 pet parents responded by saying:

1)    He/She Loves Me No Matter What: No matter whom you are, where you’re from or what you do, a pet’s love is unconditional. According to a survey conducted by Petfinder.com, almost half of the pet owners surveyed admit they sometimes talk to their pet. And 80% of those people stated that on those occasions, the animal seemed to respond by means of sounds, facial expressions, or body language. In other words, your pet is always there when you need them to provide a comforting hug or a big, wet kiss!

2)    He/She’s My Best Friend: Pets are constant companions that make us laugh, keep us company and provide an outlet for pet parents to voice any problems without judgment. Pets can offer companionship, acceptance, feelings of safety and being needed. In fact, according to the Economist, dogs have been know as “man’s best friend” for over 20,000 years! Cats, hamsters, turtles, fish or whatever your pet preference may be, they provide a friendship all its own. Pets are loyal and offer a friendship that differs from any other.

3)    He/She Makes Me Laugh: According to an article in the New York Times, the familiar feeling of laughter triggers an increase of feel-good chemicals in the brain. No matter what kind of pet, our furry friends have quirks that provide constant comedy. Whether it’s a bird that mimics funny sayings, a cat chasing his tail, a dog in a pet fashion show, or a hamster running his ball all over the house, our pets’ curious nature keep the laughs coming.

4)    He/She’s The Perfect Stress-Reducer: Sometimes nothing beats cuddling up next to your dog or cat, or taking care of your pet to help provide a positive outlet for stress. According to the National Help Call Center, pets reduce stress, help pet parents deal with loss or grief, make depression less likely and can be especially encouraging for the elderly. Just petting a dog for 15 minutes releases the feel-good hormones serotonin, prolactin and oxytocin, and lowers the stress hormone cortisol, a University of Missouri-Columbia study says. So it’s not only your pet that finds solace in a belly rub; interacting with pets is proven to provide tranquility for you as well.

5)    He Gets Me Off The Sofa: Just like humans, pets of all ages and activity levels need regular exercise to stay healthy. It’s not a bad thing that our four-legged buddies stare at us with their pouty eyes, begging us to get off the couch and take them for a walk. Exercising with your pet can lead to a lifetime of good health and good times. According to Michigan State University, not only are dog owners more likely to take regular walks, but new research shows that people who walk their dog are more active overall than people who don’t have dogs.

How to live

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This isn’t a picture of Nala. Just one that was sent to me via e-mail. It reminds me, as Nala does so often, how to live. Put your face in the wind and enjoy every moment of this wondrous life.

The Incident at Walgreens (or A Highly Embarrassing Wake-Up Call)

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Walgreens - as you can see, it's a reputable place. Not somewhere one would expect to find a dog running through the isles.

I had Nala for about a month. At this point our relationship consisted of me attempting to tire her so I didn’t feel like my hair was falling out when were coexisting in our small apartment. Car rides seemed to stimulate her and make her a little tired, so I took her with me to Walgreens to fill a prescription and pick up a few essentials.  Like any normal human being, I left the window open what I thought was just enough for her to sniff the world without actually bursting into it.

These were the days when I still underestimated Nala’s abilities and intelligence.

I was inspecting a possible hairspray purchase when I heard the tinkle of a dog collar. A woman passed me and I caught her, “Is there a dog in here?” Of course I knew the answer. She was frowning, “I think so.” Please God, I thought, don’t let it be my dog. But for that too I knew the answer and as if to confirm it, around the corner into my isle came Nala. She flashed to my feet where she promptly sat and gazed up with expectant eyes, crooked ears, and an open happy mouth. She was proud. She had reached her goal.

Naturally I was not as happy, and in my shock and anger, I dropped the few items in my hands, one of which was the aluminum hairspray bottle and it landed with a ‘clang!’. Said ‘clang!’ caused Nala to do a quick about-face and run in the opposite direction. I followed as fast as possible, which, of course, wasn’t fast enough. She ran straight to the doors, they opened for her automatically and out she went. This is when I had that moment when you realize something horrible is about to happen but there is nothing you can do about it. I was about to chase my dog though the parking lot and maybe a very busy road. Maybe I was going to watch my dog get hit by a car. Maybe she would be killed. Maybe she would be horribly injured and I would have to scoop her up and rush to the vet. Maybe I wouldn’t have enough money to cover her vet bills. Maybe I would but she would be forever altered in some way like those dogs at the park hopping around on three legs or pulling themselves in wheeled carts. Somewhere in the back of my mind I was also aware of the people around me, I didn’t see their faces but I knew well the mixture of pity and disgust they were feeling. “That poor stupid woman,” they were thinking, “can’t control her dog.”

Instead…

she ran to the car, sat by the door, and waited. I held my breath as I approached her, not believing I could be this lucky (all previous evidence was to the contrary). I quickly grabbed her collar. I couldn’t scold her, I didn’t want her to equate me catching her with punishment, so I put her in the car, rolled up the window, and went back inside to gather my things and apologize to everyone I could find. (Yes, I did consider driving away in shame at that point, but I still had some pills somewhere on the floor inside with my name on them, most likely next to some hairspray.)

When I returned, sweating and embarrassed, I fully expected to be met by a team of workers informing me that I was no longer welcome in the store and that they suggest I figure out how to train my dog.

Instead…

it was if I had never been there, or, better yet, that Nala had never been there; patrons were shopping and clerks were working. No one even looked at me, let alone scolded me. Did they know who I was? Had they only seen the dog and not the idiot running after it?

With one eye on my fellow patrons, still not trusting that I wasn’t in some sort of trouble, I gathered my things still lying in the hairspray isle and slithered towards the checkout line.

“I am so sorry,” I said to the young girl behind the counter.

She shrugged. “Don’t worry about it.” She seemed genuinely unaffected.

“She got though my car window,” I needlessly explained.

She smiled, kind of, and nodded toward the door. “She came in once, stood there, looked around, and went back out. Then she came back.”

I was as shocked by this information and event as the clerk was placid. No one tried to stop her or catch her? No one yelled HEY THERE’S A DOG IN THE STORE! This CAN’T be a common occurrence. I mean, I’m in Walgreens almost weekly and I’ve never seen a dog.

I paid and got the hell out of there before someone came to their senses.

I white-knuckled the ride home feeling frustrated, angry, worried, embarrassed, and a lucky. After all, Nala LOVES people and I could have very easily ended up chasing her though every isle of that store, or worse, the parking lot. And of course there was the hit-by-a-car possibility. In fact, I realized, she could have exited that window and run free into the world, never to be seen by this former dog owner again.

In fact, why didn’t she do that? Why did she run into a pharmacy when there was a whole wide world out at her paws?

And that is when I realized what really happened.

Nala did not escape from the car to run a muck through a drug store because she was psycho. She didn’t want to escape at all. She wanted to be with me. She was afraid I was leaving her. She watched me go though those automatic doors and she followed me. She went inside even though it was new and a little scary, and she sniffed me out.

When we arrived home I sat in the car for a few minutes and looked at her, sitting properly and happily in the seat next to me. Okay, I thought, a stunt like that deserves a more devoted human. I vowed to do better, walk a little further, pay a little more attention, expect a little less from her and a little more from me.